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Life Story Of John Durtschi


Copyright 2006 by the Durtschi Family

        Johann “John” Albert was born June 24, 1885 in Faulensee, Bern, Switzerland, the fourth son, sixth child of Friedrich Durtschi, Sr., (December 22, 1845) and Elisabeth von Kaenel (October 31, 1852)
        His parents were grieving the loss of their ten-year-old son Albert, who died just about a month before the birth of Johann Albert. It was the custom in that time, when a child died, the next baby of the same sex was given the name. But Alma Burgener told the parents that the baby should have a name in his own right, so the Albert had the name Johann added, by which name (John) he was known throughout his life.
        John’s childhood was rather usual with schooling until age fifteen or graduation from the seventh grade. He was required to take a Bible class. He helped with the herding of the animals and tending the garden.
        During his childhood he was stricken with an illness that caused an extremely high fever. It was thought that that illness was probably the cause of his stunted growth.
        John enjoyed tagging along with his sisters when they went on errands for the baker, whose shop was on the ground floor of the Durtschi home. One night the baker sent for Elise and Lina because he needed some yeast from Spietz, about five miles away. The two girls told John to stay home; they knew he would slow them up. But John followed after them and got lost. When the girls returned and their mother asked where he was, there began a search all over the neighborhood. Finally he was found, his face still tear-stained, happily eating cookies in a lady’s house.
        John was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints on July 3, 1903 in the Thunersee, by Elder Alma Burgener; he also confirmed him on the same day.
        John came to America with his family. They arrived in New York after a rough trip and traveled by train to Midway, Wasatch County, Utah. Andrew Burgener helped the family find a rental house for a few months. Then John’s father purchased a farm in Stringtown. They lived in a cabin situated on the south-west corner of the property until 1910, when Adolph helped them build a “white” brick house. His sister went to work in Salt Lake and Elise kept house for the family. Elise married Conrad Gertsch, one of the missionaries who served in Faulensee, in the Salt lake Temple, June 7, 1907. Lina then returned from Salt Lake and took over until she was wed to Alma Burgener, the other missionary who served there and baptized the family. She married in the Salt lake Temple October 7, 1907 and the young couple left for the Uintah Basin, where they set up a home in Midview. Then John became the kitchen captain, and also helped with the farm work.
        On January 28, 1915, John’s brother, Ernest bought the farm from his father and moved his family into the home. John left immediately for the “reservation” where he lived with Lina. John lived with Lina and Alma a good part of the years he spent there. He helped Adolph with the land he was homesteading and sometimes used the house Adolph had built on his land. Lina’s house was a two room log cabin at that time, so John slept in the granary.
        John went into the bee business and became known as the “Bee Man”. He was located between Lina’s and Adolph’s place on the North Myton Bench. His nephew Victor and niece Hulda helped him with the extracting and packing honey. John helped Hulda with her math lessons. He was very patient while he was trying to teach her how to work her math problems and often they stayed up quite late studying.
        One day Hulda was helping John extract honey when the sheep got out and gorged themselves on the alfalfa hay and were bloated. John did his best to try to save the sheep, but many were lost.
        John sold his pick-up truck to his brother-in-law Alma, and bought a larger truck so he could haul more honey and other supplies to Salt Lake and elsewhere. He probably also hauled the alfalfa seed that was raised in Midview and marketed around the state.
        There was no public transportation from the “reservation”, so usually when John was making the trip he would have some passengers who wanted a ride to Midway or Heber. One day two of the Clayburn girls were riding with him when his truck broke down at Deep Creek. John “hitched” them another ride, giving them instructions to get in touch with his nephew Alma as soon as they got there, and have him come to rescue him. Well, the girls forgot to tell Alma until they were at a dance that night. They suddenly remembered that John was waiting to be helped. It was too late to go by then, so Alma went out the next morning. John was still waiting. Alma said, “You never saw such a happy little guy in your life, as Uncle John was when he saw me.” Alma, being a good mechanic, fixed the truck and they were both on their way.
        John was a man who laughed and smiled easily. He had the cutest, gayest chuckle; it made all who knew him join in his mirth. He was a shy unassuming and friendly person. All of his nieces and nephews remembered what great times they had playing games with him. He was a “fun Uncle!”
        One of the school teachers who worked at the Utah Woolen Mills in the summer made John acquainted with a coworker at the mills in 1928. John and Emma Caroline Terjung (May 22, 1893) carried on a long distance courtship for a year. They were married in the Salt lake Temple October 22, 1929. Emma stayed in Salt Lake and worked for a few months after the marriage.
        Alma and Lina Burgener and their family moved into Salt Lake in 1929. Alma had been released as bishop of the ward that John had been serving as ward clerk. Evidently he was the Ward Clerk for the bishop that followed, because Emma said that she did the clerical work for John after she moved out to Midview in 1930. John was acting Post Master until that service was discontinued.
        When Emma moved out to Midview she was rather disenchanted. She had to carry the culinary water from a ditch a distance from the house. There was no electricity. Things were pretty primitive. Soon after her arrival she was stung by a bee and she had decided she would steer clear of them. But she was soon helping with the extracting and the packing of the honey. When the farms were being evacuated in preparation for the filling of the reservoir that was built, John investigated property in Oregon and Wyoming. He settled on a plot in Snake Creek just west of Midway. His nephew Walter helped him build some chicken coops. He got into the bee business again and he pastured calves to fatten around the house.
        John remodeled the house, by adding a kitchen sink and water system. He put some cupboards in the kitchen and also built a bathroom. The water was pumped into the house.
        After a time, John’s personality began to change. He was nervous and easily upset, and had disorientation. (Perhaps it was Alzheimer’s disease?). He was finally hospitalized at Provo. His youngest brother William went and checked him out and took him back home to Emma to take care of. Life was not easy for them.
        Emma said that when her father-in-law, Friedrich, Sr. was visiting in Midway he would walk up to see them and he tried to get John to treat her better. Emma said that Friedrich used the best German of anyone she had ever heard.
        John died March 23, 1961 and was buried in the Midway City Cemetery.
        Emma sold the property and she and her widowed sister Maria Laterie moved into a small home near the Jordan River on Fourth South Street in Salt Lake City. As they became less able to care for the home and yard, they turned their property over to the Church for life time care, and moved into the Salt Lake Stake Retirement home 112 West Second North Street.
        Several years ago Maria died and was buried in Midway. Emma is still residing in the Salt Lake Retirement home; however, it is now run by the county. Emma lived to be ninety-four years old.

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Page Updated: 22 Aug 06